Hundreds of Biden candidates unconfirmed amid GOP blockade

In July, President Biden announced that he intended to appoint Deborah E. Lipstadt, a renowned Holocaust scholar, to head a new office at the State Department tasked with combating rising anti-Semitism. in the world.

The move garnered praise from more than 20 liberal and conservative Jewish groups, all of whom were impressed by Dr Lipstadt’s impeccable credentials and reputation for resisting anti-Semitism wherever she saw it, be it Neo-Nazi marches in Charlottesville, Virginia. , or a liberal icon in Congress.

Yet nearly six months later, Dr Lipstadt’s appointment remains in limbo, thwarted by Senate Republicans who have complained that they criticized some of them on Twitter.

Dr Lipstadt is among hundreds of high-profile Biden candidates whose offers for Senate-confirmed jobs have languished due to partisan dysfunction or personal spite. In a rare but lackluster example of courtesy, members of both parties agree that the confirmation system is a contentious mess, in part because of what Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and Minority Leader, called “Territorial problems”.

The problem appears to be the worst it has ever been. A year after Mr Biden’s inauguration, only 41% of his candidates for Senate confirmed positions have been approved, according to new analysis from the Partnership for Public Service, a non-partisan group that seeks to make the federal government more efficient .

Mr Biden, for his part, released nominations at a faster rate than President Donald J. Trump, but slower than Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, according to the analysis. Regardless, it took an average of 103 days for the Senate to confirm Mr. Biden’s nominees – about a month longer than under the Obama administration, about twice as long as under the Clinton administration and nearly three times longer than under the Reagan era. .

“You see a broken system collapsing even more, and in an election year it’s not going to improve,” said Max Stier, chief executive of the Partnership. “We need a political Geneva Convention, to distinguish between legitimate partisan differences and the destruction of our basic government infrastructure.”

At the end of last month, Senator Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat and majority leader, agreed to schedule a potentially contentious vote on imposing sanctions on the company behind a Russian gas pipeline to Germany to satisfy Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who blocked dozens of State Department candidates on the issue. Shortly thereafter, nearly 40 appointments were approved by the Senate, including Mr. Biden’s selections to be the United States’ ambassadors to China and Japan. But dozens of others remain stranded.

“The truth is that the unprecedented obstructionism of some Republicans is straining the system,” Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, in the Senate last month, adding that the situation was forcing the president to operate without the national security officials in place, “leaving our nation weakened.”

Charts provided by a staff member of the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, suggest the committee was moving faster on nominations than at the previous Congress, when Mr. Risch was committee chair.

But more than 15 other Senate committees have jurisdiction over certain appointments. And dragging your feet goes beyond blocking committee hearings on candidates.

Last month, Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas briefly declined to confirm five U.S. prosecutors appointed in Democratic-leaning states, demanding on the floor of the Senate that Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, first apologizes for interrupting him more than eight months earlier during a hearing. The Senate voted to confirm the five candidates shortly after Mr Durbin apologized.

This month, the White House resubmitted more than 100 nominations after the Senate adjourned for the December recess without taking action on them. Some of those candidates have been waiting for almost a year to start work, including Dilawar Syed, who was originally appointed in March as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Republicans’ declared objections to the confirmation of Mr. Syed, who would be the most senior Muslim in the federal government, include his work for a Muslim advocacy group. But they also cited their opposition to the Small Business Administration’s decision to approve pandemic assistance to abortion providers.

Mr Biden also reappointed Ed Gonzalez, the Harris County Sheriff in Texas, to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after initially appointing him in April. Despite its essential role in controlling the flow of immigrants to the southern border, the ICE has not had a permanent leader since 2017.

It was into this maelstrom that the appointment of Dr Lipstadt entered.

The White House announced in late July that Dr Lipstadt would head an expanded State Department office focused on monitoring and combating the rise of anti-Semitism abroad. For the first time, the role would carry the rank of Ambassador, requiring Senate confirmation.

Mr Risch declined last month to say when Republicans would consent to a hearing on Dr Lipstadt’s appointment. Mr Risch and other Republicans hinted at the heist linked to a tweet by Dr Lipstadt about Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who also sits on the Foreign Relations Committee.

In March, Mr Johnson rejected the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, saying in a radio interview that he might have felt more threatened if the rioters had been “Black Lives Matter and anti-fa protesters” instead of Trump supporters who “love this country, who really respect law enforcement.

In a few days, Dr Lipstadt tweeted linked to an article on Mr Johnson’s comments and added: ‘This is white supremacy / nationalism. Pure and simple.

Republicans are said to be considering asking Dr Lipstadt to publicly apologize to Mr Johnson before allowing his appointment.

Dr Lipstadt, 74, is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, and founding director of the Emory Institute for Jewish Studies. Presidents of both sides recognized her scholarship and nominated her for leadership positions at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Dr Lipstadt has written six books on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and Holocaust denial. In 1993, English writer David Irving sued her and her publisher, Penguin Books, for libel in Britain after she described him in one of her books as one of the deniers. most dangerous in the world.

In 2000, Mr. Irving lost the case, in a verdict that was a sweeping condemnation of him and Holocaust denial. Dr Lipstadt documented the 10-week trial in his book “History on Trial”, which became the basis for a 2016 film, “Denial”.

Dr Lipstadt has long used Twitter and other public forums to criticize politicians on the right and left. In 2019, she sharply criticized Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, for calling pro-Israel Americans “a political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to swear allegiance to a foreign country.” Such statements are “part of the textbook accusations against the Jews,” Dr. Lipstadt told a Jewish Insider reporter.

Later that year, after Mr. Trump rejected white supremacy in a statement after shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Lipstadt told Jewish Insider his words were insufficient. “While it was good to hear him finally say those words – white supremacy – lumping this problem together with sanity and gun control obscures the fact that white supremacy is one of the main, if not the main, motivating factor of these national terrorists “, she declared. noted.